Tourists to Cape Town can now get an extra helping hand from the newly appointed Tourism Safety Ambassadors. Working at tourism hotspots in the CBD and Bo-Kaap, the ambassadors provide an extra set of eyes and ears on the ground. They guide locals and visitors around the city, offer advice, share safety tips and keep a keen eye out for any suspicious behaviour.
The Tourism Safety Ambassadors were recently appointed by Cape Town Tourism.
Within a short space of time, the team has notched up some notable successes and the City of Cape Town today has commended them for their sterling work in bringing perpetrators to book.
‘I am very pleased to see our youth playing an active part in making our society a better place. This is another great example of tourism and job creation coming together. I hope that other young people will look to these ambassadors as role-models to see what it is possible to achieve when you stay focused on your goals,’ said Dan Plato, Executive Mayor of Cape Town.
The ambassadors work closely with their partners in crime prevention such as the Bo-Kaap neighbourhood watch, the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the South African Police Service (SAPS). They are appreciative of the intelligence provided by the SAPS on hotspots, criminal trends and other safety issues. SAPS also provides vehicle support and back-up when needed. The Bo-Kaap neighbourhood watch keeps an eagle eye on the area via their CCTV camera network and informs the ambassadors about potential safety risks.
The ambassadors keep in touch with each other via a WhatsApp group.
The group has notched up some notable successes:
- They were instrumental in the bust and arrest of a gang of 10 ATM credit card scammers who were targeting mainly tourists
- They prevented several attempted muggings of tourists
- They prevented a tourist from being scammed at an ATM in a well-known hot spot
- Assisted lost tourists by walking with them to the attractions they were looking for and accompanying them back to the CTT offices
- Assisted SAPS by identifying and calling in suspicious cars in the area
The City’s Mayoral Committee Member for Economic Opportunities and Asset Management, Alderman James Vos, met with the Tourism Safety Ambassadors to present them with a certificate of commendation for the great work they are doing and to acknowledge their successes to date.
This was followed by a walkabout with the Mayor, Cape Town Tourism CEO Enver Duminy, and Alderman Vos to experience first-hand what the ambassadors encounter on a daily basis.
‘I tip my hat to this group of young people who are going about their task without fear. They are disrupting the tourism hotspots where criminals were becoming a nuisance by preying on unsuspecting locals and visitors to the city. Some of them have been threatened but this has not deterred them from doing what they have been trained to do best. Instead they have soldiered on and notched up some really good successes,’ said Alderman Vos.
‘Concerns around visitor safety continues to be one of our biggest barriers in growing tourism numbers to Cape Town. The increase in reported tourism safety incidents has spurred us to take action. This safety ambassador initiative is a welcome addition to our other tourism safety schemes like the four-step industry safety plan and our special band-aid programme. We would like to call on government, corporates, small business and communities to expand this Tourism Safety Ambassador programme across Cape Town but also to ensure we can financially sustain it all year round,’ said Enver Duminy.
‘My priority is to work with industry and our partners to make it easier for individuals, communities and businesses to become part of the tourism value chain. To achieve this, the focus must shift towards product development and effective destination marketing that can drive demand and make business sense,’ added Alderman Vos.
The Tourism Safety Ambassadors have become a familiar sight on the streets at tourist hotspots and they have earned the trust of many local business owners as well as residents who know them by name. In some instances, community members come to their assistance when they detain a perpetrator while waiting for SAPS to arrive and make the arrest.
Two of the group of 15 ambassadors were keen to share their stories with us.
Munifa Canterbury is a 4th dan black belt martial arts instructor and competitor. Not only does she have her South African colours but is the All Africa champion in kata. Munifa lives in the Bo-Kaap and making a difference in her community has always been a passion. Being a tourism safety officer has given her the platform to put some of her skills into action while earning an income that has in turn benefitted her household. She is passionate and committed to this project and hopes it will continue to create opportunities for other young people.
Cleo Moses, who lives in Elsies River, was extremely grateful to be chosen to be a part of this ambassador programme. Being jobless after completing her tertiary studies brought a sense of discouragement and low self-esteem to her for about two years, as it did to a number of other young people in her area. She was especially eager to be productive and possibly learn new skills in the workplace.
‘The programme has challenged me to escape from my comfort zone and interact with strangers, many of them tourists who depend on me to provide information and guidance on their safety. I have become conscious about my approach to a stranger, how I engage with them and share information that I need to convey about their safety. I have learned to speak slowly and clearly, as I tend to become nervous when I have to approach a group of people. This has really helped to boost my confidence in public speaking. The ability to develop my listening and speaking skills and broaden my knowledge about Cape Town as a tourist destination has also had a positive impact on my group work skills. To be able to work in a group requires communication and trust,’ added Cleo.